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EMS on the ballot

Pocahontas County voters to decide on taxes to pay for emergency care

- Messenger photo by Bill Shea
A man contemplates a work of art by Mary Muller in the Blanden Memorial Art Museum. - Messenger photo by Bill Shea Shelley Stumpf, an emergency medical technician, and David Kraft, a paramedic, check equipment in the back of a Pocahontas Community Hospital ambulance. Kraft is holding the cables used to connect a patient to a heart monitor. Pocahontas County voters will decide during the November election if they will pay additional taxes to support emergency medical services in their county.

POCAHONTAS –When someone experiences a sudden medical crisis all they and their families care about is getting help fast.

In Pocahontas County. paid and volunteer paramedics and emergency medical technicians make it their mission to provide timely lifesaving care to those who are injured, ill or suffering from a heart attack or stroke.

Emergency medical care is expected today. And there is a cost to providing that care.

Pocahontas County voters will decide during the Nov. 8 election if they are willing to pay some taxes to ensure that quality emergency medical service continues in their communities.

“EMS is at a crossroads,” said Patrick Mooney, the emergency medical service director at Pocahontas Community Hospital and EMS coordinator for Pocahontas County. ” We need to do something. This will help sustain what we have right now and we can continue to build upon it.”

- Messenger photo by Bill Shea
A man contemplates a work of art by Mary Muller in the Blanden Memorial Art Museum. - Messenger photo by Bill Shea Paramedic David Kraft sits in the cab of a Pocahontas Community Hospital ambulance. Pocahontas County voters will decide during the November general election if they will pay additional taxes to support emergency medical care.

James Roetman, the administrator and chief executive officer of the hospital, said the upcoming referendum vote is about the future.

“I am personally asking the people of Pocahontas County to think about the future,” he said. “I think this will set us up to meet the needs of the future.”

The referendum question before the voters asks if a new property tax of 21 cents per $1,000 of taxable value should be instituted to help pay for emergency medical care.

The same question asks if a new 1 percent income tax should be instituted to also help pay for emergency medical care.

If approved, the two new taxes would generate a combined $250,000 annually to pay for EMS throughout the county.

- Messenger photo by Bill Shea
A man contemplates a work of art by Mary Muller in the Blanden Memorial Art Museum. - Messenger photo by Bill Shea One of the newest ambulances in the Pocahontas Community Hospital's fleet is shown on the hospital grounds recently. Buying and equipping such a unit costs about $400,000.

The proposal must be approved by at least 60 percent of those voting in order for the new taxes to go into effect.

If approved, the new property tax would go in effect on July 1, 2023.

The new income tax would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

The hospital’s ambulance service, which is the largest one in the county and the only one providing paramedic level care, is financed with fees and recently with contributions from the city and county governments.

Roetman said the hospital gets 40 cents for every $1 it bills for ambulance service.

“What little money gets paid to us doesn’t come close to covering our expenses,” he said.

He said that the city and county have each been contributing $30,000 a year to the hospital for emergency medical service.

While it costs money to respond to calls, treat patients and transport them to the hospital, there is also a “cost of availability,” Roetman said. He said that cost of availability includes ambulances, equipment, and in the hospital’s case, having paid staff available to respond.

For a long time, emergency medical service was not considered an essential service like police and fire protection in the state of Iowa, and thus was not tax supported. A new law enacted in 2021, declared EMS to be an essential service and made it possible for counties to enact levies to pay for it.

“This just brings us up to par with our brothers and sisters in other public safety entities,” Mooney said.

Emergency medical service in Pocahontas County

Pocahontas Community Hospital has the largest service, with three ambulances at the hospital and one in Laurens. It is the only provider of paramedic level care and the only one with paid personnel.

Fonda and Rolfe have ambulance services.

Gilmore City and Palmer have first responder units that treat patients before the ambulance arrives, but do not transport patients.

Proposed EMS taxes in Pocahontas Counties

Property tax of 21 cents per $1,000 of taxable value

1 percent income tax

Impact on Taxpayers

The proposed property tax is estimated to cost a typical homeowner an additional $16 a year.

The proposed income tax is expected to cost a single person an additional $19 per year. It is expected to cost a household an additional $43 per year.

The referendum vote

Will be conducted during the Nov. 8 general election

The proposal must be approved by at least 60 percent of those voting in order for the taxes to go into effect.

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